Thursday, 28 May 2009

Conversation in Bar Code

(more mad creative writing!)

Transcript of a conversation, recorded by operatives of MIX, in Bar Code a fashionable cafe in Stockport (if that's not a contradiction in terms). The conversation is between two men. The eldest is Jonathan Swift (believed to be a non de plume) [see FX/22/25/mr/2409] and a younger man known as Max.[FX/25/209/tr/2122]

- The backlash when it started was slow at first. There was only limited and sporadic action by Peds [cyclist's slang for pedestrians] and Moots [motorists]. A few slashed tires or a few tacks scattered on a cycle path, or an occasional punch up or an attempt to run a cyclist off the road. A damned nuisance but nothing that serious. But then with the formation of PAC [Pedestrians Against Cyclists] and MAG [Motorists against Cyclists] groups and then they started working together. It got more serious and injuries to cyclists happened more and more, and bikes began to be trashed on a regular basis. And then there was the first death - Donald Drake - remember him?
- Yes.
- There was no holding them back. After that CAPAM [Cyclists Against Pedestrians and Motorists] was formed and the revenge squads went into action. But, you know, the worse lot were the Dark Cyclists-
- Do they really exists?
- Of course they do. Who do you think it was who torched Ellesmere Port?
- But that was an accident surely?
- No way. An accident was what the authorities wanted us to believe.
- Oh.
- And then there was the bomb-
- Bomb?
- Yes bomb. Come on surely you don't believe everything put out by the BMC [British Media Corporation]?
- No but... who can you believe?
- A good question.
- So do the Dark Cyclists still exist?
- Of course they do - they were one of the 19 [reference to the 19 groups that formed the so called virtual government]
- Oh, I don't remember seeing them listed.
- No of course not they were secretly part of CAPAM.
- Yes oh.
-Fancy another?
- No, I must be off.


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Hunger in the cities

(More creative writing - OK this is getting a bit weird but....)

No one had thought of the Women’s Institute having a role in government but why not? They had a membership of over 200,000 and were well organised. They had a good distribution network a capacity for processing food and raw materials and were well networked in both traditional and modern ways. Indeed their computer resources were a key part of the successfully establishment of the virtual government.

So when the food riots kicked off in London and other major cities with the situation in Glasgow-Edinburgh being especially critical with even the middle class (if one can use such an old term) areas of the city close to starvation. Rickets of course had reappeared some 5 years previously. It seems inevitable now that Women’s Institute both offered their services and were welcomed.

It was an inspired move to re-open the Glasgow Clyde side docks and canals so that food could be shipped in by liners, retired navy ships, old barges, yachts and dinghies. Indeed it brought to mind old black and white footage of the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk in 1940 during the Second World War of the 20th Century. (Not to be confused with our recent Virtual Second World War).

Much of the food was shipped in from the People’s Allotments in Eire and the Hebrides. The Bank of England issued promissory notes to pay for the food but no-one really believed that these notes had any real value. What really changed things was the broadcasts on WeeTube (the Scottish version of Wetube) which reported world wide hits amounting to 400 million. Of course 400 million hits were more than the sponsors of the site were ready to pay for. However the bleak video footage from mobile and body embedded phones and videos worked wonders.

The exodus from the cities continued – London lost 10% of its population in just one year and Glasgow-Edinburgh was 20% lower since its formation from the merger of Glasgow and Edinburgh. In London, as elsewhere, much of the parks and main roads were dug up and planted for food.

God's fire four

(More cretaiev writing. Final bit I think of God's fire)

In the end it was a case of real fire but was it from God or man?

A heated debate ensued both in the old ‘dead trees’ media - newspapers and television and radio but also in the new - emails, websites, youtube, wikipedia, blogs and very new of twitter, wetube, infacts and so on.

Many believed that the Naylerites had deliberately fired St Pauls but their blitz media appearances seemed convincing enough, especially those not by James himself and there was no shred of forensic evidence that the police and other agencies could find to convict the Naylerites although they were held for 4 weeks in protective custody at Friends House Open Prison in Euston Road.

The conspiracy theorists had a whale of a time. Some insisted that it was put up job by the Amalgamated Church of Britain to both act as a recruiting device and to also deflect criticism away from the forthcoming inauguration of a Lesbian Archbishop. Naturally the evangelical wing of the CofB insisted that this was a sign from God that the inauguration was wrong and that we should repent. This call from repentance got rather mixed up with the call from repentance from the Naylerites who like their fellow Quakers were pro gay, Lesbian, Trans and Cyber.

There was even a lunatic fringe who argued that this was a case of spontaneous combustion occurring to a building rather than to a person with a variety of the usual suspects named – ghosts, reptiles, leylines and the like.

However, forensic evidence from the site yielded nothing of significance and the planned public inquiry was rather a washout and there were many more pressing events occurring. Clearly we will probably never know the truth of how ‘God’s Fire’ came to burn down St Paul’s Cathedral but it certainly drew many new recruits to the Naylerites whose number were said to have peaked in the months following the fire at 50,000 according to Infacts.

The glass shatters

(Another creative writing piece!)

It was gala night at the Royal Festival Hall. Everyone, I mean just about anyone who was anyone was there - including royalty, peers of the realm, classic and pop stars, (could you tell the difference anymore?) the odd member of parliament (some of them were truly very odd!) and even the US and French ambassadors.

Halfway through the evening just before the break when there was a slight undercurrent of restlessness to be truthful we had all rather gorged ourselves on music the Gala Singers took to the stage. They were supposed to be an impromptu supergroup brought together especially for this one occasion only but there was already talk of a recording contract and their agents and the agents of the agents were in the thick of the various necessary negotiations.

The backing orchestra from the BBC played a few bars and the Gala Singers began collectively sounding a true clear and very high note that just slightly wavered or quivered. Suddenly a chandelier shattered - it sounded like a gun going off and many members of the audience ducked spontaneously. There was a collective gasp from the audience but before anyone could do anything but duck another chandelier shattered and then another.

I studied the singers and they were clearly unsurprised. They were expecting this to happen!

Pandemonium broke out as people began to frantically flee the concert hall, blocking up the exits and losing their English cool. Meanwhile the singers were escorted off stage.

What on earth was going on and why?

We didn't have long to wait. Next day reports came in from all over London of glass being shattered by singing - Firstly the windows at the Bank of England, then at the House of Commons where there were no bottles left unshattered in Annie's Bar and no windows in any of the rooms. Next it was the turn of Buckingham Palace and then the Ministry of Defence and then what seems to have been a foiled attempt to shatter the glass in Number 10 Downing Street.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

God's fire - part three

(Again some creative writing)

After that first Sunday in York James went from strength to strength. Even though the York Quaker Meeting was unable to back his 'Radical Direct action plan' many of the members of the York Meeting did. Many newcomers convinced 'Naylerlites', as the York Quakers initially, and Quakers nationally began to call them, began to attend. Soon Sunday Quaker Meetings in York grew firstly to over 500 and then over 1,000 people.

James, in typical Quaker fashion, took the phrase 'Naylerite' not as a put down but more as a badge of office to be worn with pride. "If by Naylerite you mean full of God's fire, then I am indeed a Naylerite". This became a slogan on a purple T shirt worn by many of his supporters.

Soon the Naylerites began to picket York Minster proclaiming the time of God's fire, their silence being broken from time to time by sung chants of Alleliah. But they soon moved on to heckling the priests delivering Sunday sermons in the Minister. Very soon the police were called and the first appearances in Court began.

James was careful after that first time and subsequent week in prison not to be arrested. Once the York God's Fire Protests as they were called were well underway he began a walking protest in procession with some of his followers from York to London calling at Cathedrals on the way - these included Selby, Lincoln, Norwich and ended at St Paul's. Always the same the silent protests and then the heckling and then the arrests.

With his knowledge of Quaker History James called his fellow walkers the Valiant Sixty. The Valiant Sixty, who were in fact more than sixty, were a group of early active Quakers preachers mostly from the North of England who spread the Quaker message around Britain and further afield. Many were regularly beaten up and imprisoned. James and his new Valiant Sixty were mostly not assaulted apart from a rather too physical arrest by police in Norwich Cathedral but they did manage to be imprisoned after Court appearances nearby to all the Cathedrals they picketed and heckled at.

Something special was clearly expected to happen at St Paul's. Was it going to be a bigger and more vocal group with more arrests than ever? Would James be once more arrested and tried this time for conspiracy? Would an indefinite prison sentence result under the new Anti Terrorist Laws which some religiously minded MPs were arguing could be applied to him?

In the end it was a case of real fire but was it from God or man?

God's fire part two

(This is a follow on from my recent God' Fire posting and represents a creative writing thread on this blog.)

Why and how had this happened? Well I blame James Nayler - not not the historic James Nayler (1618-1660) who was leading Quaker in the early days in aftermath of the English Civil War. This original Nayler came to grief in Bristol in 1656. Well he did imitate Christ's entry into Jerusalem by riding into Bristol on horseback on Palm Sunday with his followers singing 'Holy, holy, holy'. He was tried before Cromwell's parliament for blasphemy and was flogged, branded on the forehead with the letter B, had his tongue pierced with a hot iron (not anaesethics in those days) and sentence to two years' hard labour in prison.

No, it was the so-called modern James Nayler I blame. His real name was probably Ken Southwold (no one is quite sure) but he does seem to have had the original Nayler's way with words.'God's fire' was his catch phrase. And many Quakers, would you believe, were on fire with his words. Not all of them - for a sizable minority warned against him and his policy of 'radical direct action'. They didn't mind the relatively silent vigils outside cathedrals, prisons, town halls and parliament but the frequent nakedness was more problematic as was the reviving of the old Quaker tradition of heckling sermons in churches.

Many of the Naylerites, as they were known, were brought to Court for this heckling - still seen as disgraceful behaviour in (post) modern Britain - and their subsequent refusal, on being found guilty, to pay their fines, resulted in short term prison sentences. Will over 500 Quakers in prison for such heckling at any one time they were starting to clog up the criminal justice system not to mention their various impacts on the prisons.

No-one seems to remember how this modern day James Nayler got started but we do have an I-witness account given by a Provisional Government, spy of his early speaking at a Quaker Meeting one Sunday in York. At that time there were only a 100 people in the room that Sunday.

"It was quiet as usual for the first 15 minutes or so and the children had been led out as per usual. Then James stood up. He was not an especially striking figure to look at but his clothes were rather strange. They looked old fashioned rather like those worn by Victorian farm workers.

'Friends of the Truth,' he began - this was a typical use by him of an early Quaker phrase. 'Friends of the Truth we are called to witness God's light not just in the quiet of our hearts but alive in the world outside. We are called to repent and to burn away the dross in our souls. Let God's fire cleanse our souls, cleanse our society, cleanse our world so all men, women and children will know and obey God's Truth.'

There was what can only be described as a shocked silence soon followed by an exultant shout of 'Halleluia, halleliua' from a clearly mentally distressed young woman. The Quaker Elders present exchanged worried looks. However, the silence, if somewhat fraught, was maintained until the end of the Meeting. At that point John Rampton, Clerk of the Elders led James away to a side room and that was that for now."

Minor Miracles

It's Saturday morning (well it was) and I've just finished my piano practice working on a new piece and my two hands are just beginning to work really well together on it.

It is a minor miracle to watch my hands produce this music. I have only been learning to play the piano for just over a year. All the years I have loved music but hardly ever had a voice (outside of the bathroom) and never part from badly self taught teenage guitar been able to play.

I will never be a brilliant musician, probably(!) never play in a band but my playing enriches my soul and I hope to occasionally in time enrich others.

No one was ever interested in this possibility of em and music. I had a good enough upbringing otherwise but no one thrust an instrument into my hands and said, 'try this'.

Music has been very important to me all my life. I even wrote a poem about it when I was 17 or 18 expressing my passion about music and my sadness that I could never play it.

To all would-be musicians out there, to all would be writers, poets, artists, creators of any kind, give it a go, find the right teacher and work at it!

Best to all,

Bill on bike cycling in the wind and sunshine

Friday, 22 May 2009

Stone huggers

Creative writing piece as told to Bill-on-bike.

The Stone Huggers were at it again. Not content with re-building Stonehenge overnight – and the world was still totally amazed at that. How could they shift the 20 ton Dolerite stones and so quickly? But even more extraordinary how could they shift the 25 or 50 ton Sarsen stones? It all happened the night before the Winter Solstice, seemingly in the dark as any use of bright lights would have surely attracted the attention of both the Stoneys and the police? Yes of course it is possible with modern machinery to shift the stones, but in complete darkness and silence?

The Stoneys were the enemies of the Stone Huggers. They hated them for re-building Stonehenge and for their public demonstrations of stone-hugging. In fact they were jealous of the attention the Stone Huggers received in the media but they were also more than a little frightened of them. Many a Stoney was heard to mutter something about the ‘dark arts’ when referring to Stone Huggers but never to their face.

This time the Stone Huggers had gone too far. It was one thing to be filmed hugging a standing stone and there were plenty of video clips on Wetube but it was another when they began to disappear. First they began to shake in a curious way rather like descriptions of St Vitus dance, or the early Quakers, but then their physical outline began to fade, become even ghostly and then disappear. To add to the challenge this presents no video footage of the event has been successfully obtained. Only the stone hugging and subsequent dancing is captured on video or film and then the film goes hazy.

Nobody knows where the Stone Huggers went. There have been no credible reports of a stone hugger returning although rumours abound that they have all migrated to Lamu, an island of the Kenya coast, to Santa Barbara in California or Alice Springs in Australia.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Hope and liminality

I was thinking about hope on the bike today. I have a melancholic streak in me which I put down to being a Capricorn Astrologically but which my late father put down to my Welsh blood. But I am also curiously optimistic. I think this hope business is rather a naive quality but it does me good and it helps me be useful to other people. People need hope. I seem able to plod like a good Capricorn along for years in hope and my hopes are not always fulfilled but...

I think this hope of mine is part of my faith but I have this curious relationship with belonging to groups whether professional or faith. I am intensely loyal and stick with groups longer than is probably good for me or for them but also I am quite often liminal, quite on the edge of groups. For instance many of my students see me as person-centred and whilst I am inspired by Carl Rogers I can't claim to be Person-Centred. Likewise being a Quaker is, partially my way of not having to decide whether I am a Christian or not. And sometimes I wonder whether I am truly a Quaker, whether I truly belong among such strange people as Quakers happen to be but then again I am strange too.

I was liminal in my family. I don't remember choosing it, I think it choose me. I was certainly liminal with regard to class and still am. Being part Welsh I am liminal with regard to being English. I feel liminal at times in my University but I do have a senior role so for my students I am central not liminal. I guess I do fit the notion of the eccentric professor except I am not yet and may never be granted that title. I love my current status as Reader since it implies dwelling in ideas which I love.

I am in a poetry competition run by Poetic Republic. The second round takes place now. I don't know whether my poem is in the second round but I am dead excited. Full of hope. I can barely hope to win the competition but I would love to be in the final 12. I don't think it is very likely but... watch this space.



Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Fundamental or Yes

So playing Yes (new Pet Shop Boys CD) to Grace in the car on the way to our piano lessons.
Me -'Great isn't it?'
Grace -'Yeah'
'You don't sound that enthusiastic'
'Well I prefer Fundamental'
'Oh...Suppose you gave Fundamental 10 points what would you give Yes?'
'Better songs like Sodom and Gomorrah, I'm with stupid, Minimal, Indefinite leave to remain, Made my excuses and left, though Lunar park is a bit weird...'

Grace is clearly a real Pethead in her own right and these songs she selects are ace. My jury is still out on whether Yes is the best ever Pet CD or not but I am gripped by All around the world, Yes, Did you see me coming, Vulnerable (that one especially is staggering) and of course Pandemonium. I have a soft spot for their album Nightlife but actually their best ever might well be Battleship Potemkin which isn't really a Pet album but it is by Neil and Chris.

This one is clearly going to run and run and if any of you out there wont to pass comments on the best ever Pet song or album drop us an email...

Bill-on-bike and no longer wet!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

I get funny dreams

'I get funny dreams again and again
I know what they but I can't explain..'
-Pete Townsend

So I was drifting in and out of sleep last night musing on the Fibonacci series. That's that wonderful mathematical series that goes 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55 etc. Each new number is formed by adding the two previous ones. The relationship between any two numbers in the sequence gets closer and closer apparently to the Golden Mean (Yes F. I know it's Greek!) which is supposed to give us the perfect dimensions of height and width. I do think that Maths like Astronomy is profoundly spiritual.

So I then started dreaming that my colleague John was delivering a lecture on the Fibonacci series which is probably unlikely and then realised no it wasn't John lecturing it was my nearest and dearest snoring as I came awake. I suspect I am telling myself that John has talents I am unaware of but moving from him talking to Sheila's snoring is inspired if somewhat anticlimactic.



Monday, 18 May 2009

Frankie goes to Portsmouth

Well hello sailor! (Sorry couldn't resist that one!)

Yes me and the Boss were on a freeby on Saturday to Portsmouth but only for the day so no chance for Frankie to sample the nightlife. Everyone at the conference was so wrecked from a night of karoke, dancing and drinking. Even so the Boss was mobbed and instantly snogged by at least 6 women. It was rather sickening.

Andy from Salford rather bitchily compared the Boss to Elton John. The Boss was a bit taken back by this as "'er' back home" loves Elton. Anyhow the Boss suggested that Andy compare him to Neil Tennant. (You know I can see it - both late 50s, grey haired and losing it, limited vocal range- 'Steady on Frankie. You can slag me off but not Neil' 'OK Boss only joking, honest.'

Where was I? Ah Yes, Portsmouth with the Boss. Mind you he did do 2 amazing plate readings - stone cold sober as well. Later we hung out at the airport with the Salford crew - hey that's not a bad name for a band? After that it was all downhill(!) or rather up in the air!

Love and kisses,

(as told to Bill-on-bike)

Monday, 11 May 2009

God's fire

(I missed last Saturday's creative writing class with Tony and Steve but wrote this instead early this morning.)

We were a small group standing outside St Paul's Cathedral with our small rather pathetic placards that had slogans on them like:
- God's fire is coming
- Quake today in God's presence
- True godliness don't turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it

(That was typical of Jennifer to chose an overly long quote from William Penn.)

There were only 6 of us, not the 20 who had promised to come ('Quakers don't you just love them, not!') and nowhere near the valiant 60 we hoped to be.

It was quiet, no not a Quaker quiet rich with unspoken meaning but more of a dull quiet. Then-

Wummmph - the cathedral burst into flames. God's fire indeed but a real fire not the spiritual fire we were hoping for. We dropped our placards and legged it.
'Oh my God.'
'Whatever next?'
'I'm terrified.'
'Me too.'
'Oh God.'

This was the 15th event. There were only 4 more to come according to Jason's prophecy.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Older and growing

Lovely day for biking the sun is shining, the air is fresh, I feel the pull of the open road. Will have to go cycleabout again soon. Len is still around raring to go ('Sure thing Boss').

Yesterday I did an interview with Chris J. who is going to write it up as William unplugged/at 60 or something similar at my prompting. Later I met with Dee and things got even clearer. Some of it goes like this.

It seems as if I am on the edge of the next stage in my life. I am reaching out to offer something a bit different - not necessarily better but different. My institution values youth and sexy (instant) research. I want to offer something from an older viewpoint. Then I notice I am getting more offers than ever to present workshops, lectures, groups all around spirituality and counselling. So it feels as if the outside world is asking, inviting or maybe even calling this newer version of me into being.

So I will have to figure out the doing of this which sooner or later will likely mean retirement from my institution unless they really have a cultural change - but I am not holding my breathe. Part of me does not like change but change is what life is about and it does excite me to. And deep inside I know there are other things I do want to do, other parts of me waiting to see the light.


Bill on bike.
PS I nicked the title of this entry from Carl Rogers.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Talking of poetry

A couple of years ago the Guardian ran an item about 6 word short stories. I made one up which I guess I could have sent in and I think it works even better as a poem.
It's called:

Climate Change



There are 3 things on my mind this morning:
1) a poem came to me in the night that I did not write down at the time. It was something about being loved. I am going to have to keep a notebook by my bedside and hope I can read my handwriting the next day - which I had trouble with when I recorded dreams this way some time ago!
2) Sailing on a small boat for a couple of hours on Sunday on a broad near Norwich. The delight of both being swept along on the wind but also the moments where the wind dropped and I was with the sunlight on the still water.
3) Finally getting the latest Pets CD through the post including the bonus CD. I'll write a blow by blow or rather track by track review in a later post but in the words of a long dead housemate of mine from 1981 'This is a record that's worth having a monogamous relationship with!

Yours biking through the rain but lovin' it,

Bill on bike

Friday, 1 May 2009

Two poems

The first poem I wrote early in the 1970s I think. I then burnt it and all my other poetry from that time along with several unpublishable novels. I remembered the poem this morning. I once declaimed it at an Indian restaurant in Hull to an audience of two - my friend Liz and her bloke at the time. A lot of my very few poetry recitals have curiously occurred in Indian restaurants!

Dorothy Wordsworth Poem

I was into Wordsworth
Had a girl called Dorothy
I've still got Wordsworth

Actually Dorothy and I never really got it on but it makes for better poetry to suggest we did(?).

The first line for this next poem came to me just as I was falling asleep last night. I took the risk of not writing it done and fortunately I woke up with the whole first verse in my mind.

I was a young man once

I was a young man
And young women
Fell naked at my feet
Or they so did
In my dreams.

I was a young man
And had a trial
For Aston Villa
Or surely would have done
If they had only answered my letters

I was a young man
And the world was mine
I was a pop star
A poet
A writer
An explorer
An Astronomer

But no-one could see
And I grew up